PHILADELPHIA ( - Zach Ertz is the guy now, a 27-year-old Pro Bowl tight end in the prime of his career coming off a Super Bowl championship.

Talk to younger players trying to make their mark in the NFL at the position and the names you hear most often are Ertz and Kansas City's Travis Kelce.

Ertz even joked about it when talking with reporters at the NovaCare Complex late last month.

Former Dallas Cowboys tight end Jason Witten is that same guy for players like Ertz. A future Hall of Famer, Witten called it a career last week in advance of a move to the "Monday Night Football" booth and Ertz took some time to pen some thoughts on social media as a thank you to the master of the Y-option route.

"First off I want to say congratulations to someone that had a profound impact on my career, by just being the man he is!" Ertz wrote. "At 17 years old when I was trying to figure out what a tight end meant and what they embodied I started following the tight end for the Cowboys."

During the draft, Dallas knew Whitten was leaning toward retirement and was in the market for a potential replacement.

Most had Dallas Goedert pegged for the 'Boys in the second round until the Eagles traded up and scuttled that possibility sending dizzy Philadelphia fans into a tizzy knowing the Birds not only stole another from their biggest rival but they did it with a kid named after his father's favorite team and with the draft in the Metroplex.

For Goedert's generation, one of the measuring sticks is Ertz.

“I compare myself to the best in the league and Zach Ertz is one of the best in the league and I like a lot of the things he does and I think I do well,” Goedert said. “Using his leverage, finding soft spots in zone (coverage), just the things he does with the ball downfield I think I have some of the same similarities"

The Cowboys ultimately snared Dalton Schultz in the fourth round and as a former Stanford product just like Ertz, you can probably guess who Schultz likes to emulate.

Ertz, however, is just paying it forward from Witten and he wants to make sure everyone understands that.

"Everything he did, on the field and off, I tried to emulate," Ertz admitted. "I studied him so much, if it was 3rd & 7, I know what play was coming and I knew how he would attack the defender on the Y-Option. It’s remarkable the impact athletes can have on our society just by carrying themselves the right way, respecting others and pursuing excellence."

-John McMullen covers the Eagles and the NFL for You can reach him at or on Twitter @JFMcMullen

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